Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park invented the SkyCycle. // © 2010 Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park
For some travelers, a trip to Playa del Carmen or Tulum is all about lounging on tranquil beaches in the sunshine and not having to do anything. But for others — kids and parents among them — more adventurous activities make a vacation exciting and infinitely more memorable.
Mexico’s Riviera Maya has a plethora of adventure options, including many that cater to families. This 81-mile stretch along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, spanning from just south of Cancun to Tulum, takes advantage of its Caribbean and jungle location to offer visitors unforgettable nature experiences, from snorkeling in cenotes and swimming with sharks to ziplining and SkyCycling through the trees. Along the way, clients are sure to learn a thing or two about local culture, flora and fauna in this rich, ecologically conscious region.
Here’s a look at a few noteworthy adventure parks in Riviera Maya:
Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park
Hidden Worlds Cenotes Park is a well-established and less commercial jungle park renowned for its extensive cenotes, making it especially popular among divers and snorkelers since its opening nearly 20 years ago. This family-friendly park may not have as many amenities as others but, for clients more interested in exciting nature experiences than modern comforts, it’s a good choice.
Cenotes snorkeling, Jungle Canopy Zip Lines and Cenote Splashdown Zip Lines are all exhilarating, but a truly unique activity is the park’s newest attraction, the SkyCycle, invented at Hidden Worlds. Cable bikes are suspended at treetop level over the jungle and participants ride at their own leisurely pace through lush foliage and limestone caverns rife with stalactites and stalagmites.
Packages cost from $40 to $80 for adults, and children under 12 years of age pay half-price. (Admission is free for those under 40 inches tall.) For those looking to spend a full day playing in the jungle, the Ultimate Adventure package ($80) is just the ticket, offering unlimited access to all of the park’s most popular attractions.
The small inlet that this park was named for was long honored in Maya culture and formerly served as a port of shelter for Maya seamen. Now, it is a snorkeler’s delight, teeming with tropical fish, and the shallow water and absence of currents and waves makes it an ideal place to learn.
For those ready to go deeper, yet are not quite ready for scuba diving, Xcaret offers Snuba, a relatively new hybrid of diving and snorkeling in which air tanks remain on a raft while participants descend about 20 feet underwater with fins, a viewfinder and a weight belt for neutral buoyancy.
The newest activity at Xcaret is the Sharks! Interactive Adventure (the minimum age is 8 years old), in which participants learn about sharks from trainers and even get to touch and snorkel with trained nurse sharks, a species that dwells in the Caribbean.
Plenty of other activities are sure to keep clients happy all day at this sprawling park. (There’s a reason for the fold-out map.) From raft tours and swimming with dolphins to Monkey Island, the Butterfly Pavilion and protected marine turtles, the list goes on and on.
When it’s time for a break and a snack, the lounge chairs, tables, hammocks, bars and restaurants around the perimeter of the inlet are a welcome oasis. And, if clients still have the energy by early evening, the Xcaret Mexico Espectacular is well worth checking out. This entertaining show features more than 250 performers honoring Mexico’s history through song, dance and elaborate costumes on the park’s main stage — a fine way to wrap up a full day of adventure.
The newest adventure park in the Riviera Maya is X-Plor, which offers more than six miles of adventure (much of it underground, making it especially ideal for overcast or rainy days). Options include an outstanding network of ziplines, Stalactite River swimming, amphibious-vehicle rides through the jungle and underground cavern explorations on individual rafts paddled by hand, among other activities.
For clients wanting to make a day of it, the All-Inclusive Adventure Xplor package ($99) is a smart buy. In addition to all the activities, it includes unlimited visits to a hearty lunch buffet with an abundance of healthy, tasty dishes designed to reenergize guests for their next round of adventure.